Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jo'Burg Hawk - Look Up Brother

A great song from South Africa 1971.

University of Ghana Wednesday Morning History Seminars

I have now put together the list of presentations for the Wednesday morning seminars at the History Department at the University of Ghana in Legon. The seminars are at 9:30 am in the History Department library.

History Department Seminars
Fall  2014

J. Otto Pohl
Special Settlement vs. Apartheid: A Comparison of Soviet and South African Ethnos Theory and Practice
Hermann Wilhelm Von Hesse
Reconstruction of Accra's Architectural and Urban History through 19th Century Photographs: A Critical Appraisal.
Larry W. Yarak
"Creative [and] Expedient Misunderstandings": Elmina-Dutch Relations on the Gold Coast in the Nineteenth Century."
Samuel Ntewusu
The Road to Development: The Construction and Use of Ghana's Great North Road, 1900-2000
Humphrey Asamoah Agyekum
The Cyclical Evolution in Ghana's Civil-Military Relations
Philip Atsu Afeadie
Work Anguish, Pleasure and Concern in Colonial Civil Servants in Northern Nigeria
Knut Oyangen
Victoria Smith
Writing for Reading Aloud: Radio Ghana and a New National Literature.
Philip Kumahor
Sanitation in Accra

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SHARK MOVE - my life

Indonesian Rock from 1970.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

News from here

The Cedi has officially gained over 9% against the dollar in the last month. Of course you can't buy any dollars at the official exchange rate. The actual rate you pay to buy dollars is still around 3.8 rather than the official 3.55 and be as high as 4.1. But, at least the currency has stopped falling. It should hold steady at about 4 for the dollar as the real exchange rate for the next few months. Or at least I hope it remains stable or goes up. So it looks like Ghana will avoid a complete collapse of its currency like Weimar Germany/Zimbabwe. That is good news. In more good news the Nigerians are resuming gas exports to Ghana. But, there is alas some bad news as well. The risk of getting fatal diseases from eating off the street seems to be going up rather than down. A student at University Cape Coast recently died of food poisoning after eating some contaminated wakaaye over the weekend. So I am going back to not eating at the night market after having lunch there once this weekend before I read about the UCC student dying of food poisoning.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Dark Continent Gets Darker

The power outages are getting more frequent and longer now. The water level in the Akosombo Dam is exceptionally low this year. The recent decision by Nigerian authorities to cut off supplies of gas to Ghana has seriously exacerbated the problem. I had no power all night Tuesday, all night Wednesday, and this morning in my flat. The local news predicts that things will continue to get worse now that the Nigerian gas supplies to Ghana have been stopped. The discovery of oil and gas in Ghana like in Nigeria decades earlier has not prevented Ghana from having consistent and prolonged black outs.

Things Fall Apart

Yesterday the strap on my hand bag broke. The day before that the straps on my right sandal broke. Both the bag and the sandals were purchased in Kyrgyzstan and made in China. For some reason Chinese goods exported to Central Asia are really shoddy. They only last a couple of months before falling apart. I am hoping that the new shoes and bag I purchased here in Ghana will last a bit longer, but I am not optimistic.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It Really is the Dark Continent

Not only is the street I live on very poorly lit, we have street lights, but they don't work, but my flat frequently has no electricity. Tuesday night evidently is one of the days that Adenta has scheduled black outs. I have not had electricity there ever on a Tuesday night. Since it gets pitch dark here near the equator every single night of the year by about 6:30 pm that means much or maybe even most of my time is spent in darkness. I probably should invest in some alternative forms of light besides the tiny torch on my mobile. This weekend I will see about buying some more battery powered lighting. Today, I had to buy an emergency pair of shoes after the ones I was wearing broke. That is not a good thing when you have to walk in the dark along unpaved roads divided by multiple drainage ditches.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Harold Alexander-Tite Rope

Africa can be dangerous

Saturday night walking home from the tro tro station I stepped in a small ditch and scraped up my shin. I have since liberally applied rubbing alcohol and a topical anti-biotic ointment to the wound to prevent it from becoming infected. I don't expect that I will ever again be living somewhere with good street lighting so I should learn to walk more carefully after it gets pitch dark here at about 6:30pm or so every day.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ghana should be a net food exporter not an importer

Ghana and other African countries are perfectly capable of producing enough food to feed themselves and having a surplus left over to export. Unfortunately in Ghana most everything including food is now imported from outside of the African continent. If you go to a shop to buy biscuits they are from Sri Lanka. If you want fruit juice it is from South Africa. If you want mayonnaise it is imported from the United Arab Emirates. Ketchup is from Brunei. Even rice which used to be grown in abundance in Ghana is now mostly imported from Thailand. Just about the only two processed foods produced in Ghana that I see on a regular basis are shito sauce and bissap. If I ever do see imported shito sauce though I am pretty sure that is a sign that the Ghanaian economy has no hope what so ever. Agriculture and food processing seem like a logical place to start for an import substitution program to reduce the flow of foreign exchange out of the country. I noticed this summer when I was in Bishkek that locally produced condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and hot sauce could be found in just about every grocery store at prices much lower than imported versions. Except for shito sauce that is not the case here. You can't find Ghanaian ketchup and mayonnaise for the most part at any price yet alone ones that seriously undercut imports from Brunei and the UAE. A buy Ghanaian campaign is only going to work if there are Ghanaian manufactured goods available in the stores to buy at competitive prices. So far policies to effect such a situation have eluded the Ghanaian government.

First Classes of the Semester

Today I finally taught my first classes of the semester. Only two students showed up to the first one and they were over 40 minutes late. The second class had better attendance, but still seemed to be missing the majority of students. For some reason a lot of students here don't think that they have to attend the first class of the semester. I am not sure where this idea came from. But, all my attempts to disabuse students of the notion that the first class of the semester doesn't count have come to nought.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Дос-Мукасан - Бетпак Дала (1976)

Kazakh psych rock from 1976.

African Geography and Race

This map shows both the Arabian and Iberian peninsulas as separate from Africa. But, there were times in the past when both were politically joined to parts of Africa. Like all other continents Africa is an ideological construct and the version in color to the right has problems. For instance why are the Arab dominated states of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and Mauritania considered African, but Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and others just to the east are not? Now granted the north African states of Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt are often grouped with the rest of the Arab world as part of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). But, why does this designation frequently exclude Arab dominated Mauritania and Sudan? The fact is that many people in Libya including its former leader in the years before his death think of themselves as linked with the rest of Africa rather than with the Arab states east of the Red Sea. Likewise in Sudan many people including the current leadership consider Sudan an Arab, not an African state. So why do western scholars more often than not group Libya with the Middle East and North Africa and Sudan with sub-Saharan Africa rather than the other way around? Is it just because of skin color? Does the fact many of the people claiming to be Arabs in Sudan and Mauritania have darker skin than the Berbers in Libya mean that the former will always be "Black" Africans and the latter "Middle Eastern Arabs" in the eyes of western scholars? How does this jibe at all with the fact that these same people claim race is constructed when they essentialize and reify pigmentation in this way? There is obviously a "White" vs. "Black" divide across northern Africa. But, to impose a scheme of constructing racial differences between different groups of Arabic speaking Africans based solely upon pigment and to ignore the local social, cultural, and historical contexts existing in the region just seems so typical of American "progressives."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

More on why I hate tro tros

The wait for a tro tro first going to my destination and then one in which a crowd of people do not rush in front of me to grab every available seat seems to be getting longer and longer. Last night it took me over an hour and a half to get a seat on a tro tro going from Legon to Andenta. This is a major reason why I have always preferred to live within walking distance of work. Unfortunately, it is not possible here because the area around the university is specifically zoned for commercial and not residential use for a radius of over 15 km. I was fortunate for a while in getting to live on campus for free, but if you look at the older terms of service of the university at one time everybody was guaranteed free housing on the university for as long as they worked for it. Then the university built almost no new faculty housing after 1966 and as a result the vast majority of faculty have to live off campus at least 20km or more away now. So it takes me about an hour and a half to get to work in the morning now and two and a half hours to get home every day.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Ghanaian Radio

This weekend I spent some time listening to Ghanaian radio. A lot of stations of course play high life music. Others play hip life which is a fusion of hip hop and high life. Still others play straight up hip hop. Then there is jazz, rhythm and blues, and other genres. But, the most interesting station I found and it only lasted a couple of hours before I lost it was a country western station and not just any country western station. But, a country western station that played a lot of clearly narrated and very depressing old school type country western songs about divorce, alcoholism, and other typically depressing tropes of country western music. None of the songs were ones that I had ever heard before, but I am pretty sure that they were American and not Ghanaian. Unfortunately, after a couple of hours it seemed to disappear to be replaced with a station playing upbeat, but rather mundane African-American popular music from the late 1970s and early 1980s that I have heard over and over again since the songs first came out. That is okay as back ground music, but the country station made me really pay attention to the lyrics and the stories they were telling.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Any Suggestions for Books on African History?

One of my minor goals before I die is to have read at least one book on the history of each country in Africa. I am a long way from achieving that goal, but currently I am working on reading a book on Sudan and one on Libya. The last African theme book I finished reading was on Algeria. Other countries on the completed list are Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, and Western Sahara. Since I am not a specialist on Africa and the people I work with almost all specialize in Ghana I am taking suggestions here on works that deal with the individual histories of other African states. So if you have any suggestions put them in the comments.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

UTAG Strike to End

According to today's Daily Graphic the government and UTAG reached an agreement yesterday and the strike will end this week. The government has agreed to pay us our Book and Research Allowance for 2013-2014. The book component is $1,500 dollars and the research part 400 GH. Unfortunately, they will be paying us using an averaged exchange rate of 2013 when the cedi was worth double what it is today and 2014. So at most we will probably only get $1,000 after taxes, maybe even less. The government is also still adamant about permanently ending the Book and Research Allowance after this year in favor of a research fund where it will determine who gets funding. UTAG has been strongly opposed to such a scheme in the past. The potential for such a fund to be used as a means of political patronage is immense.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Another UTAG Strike update

We are still on strike, but the government and UTAG may come to some agreement this week that would allow us to go back to teaching. Both my main campus classes are on Friday morning. Everybody else says wait until next week to start. But, I am going to teach before then if the strike ends and the university opens this week. We have a short semester compared to the US to begin with and days already lost to the strike make it even shorter. Under normal circumstances each class consists of only eleven two hour lectures for the entire semester. This semester we have already lost two weeks so instead of twelve weeks, eleven for lectures and one for a midterm examination, we only have ten left. This is a major reason I cover everything that will be in all of the lectures in a summary fashion on the first day of class.

Monday, September 01, 2014

On Kazakh Statehood

Of course there were forms of statehood in Kazakhstan run by the indigenous population before the territory finally became completely absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. But, the modern Kazakh state is a direct successor of the Kazakh SSR formalized in 1936. The actual borders of the Kazakh SSR had already been finalized in 1932 when it was still the Kazakh ASSR (formed in 1924) and the Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast was detached from Kazakhstan and made part of the RSFSR. Four years later in 1936 the Karakalpak ASSR was transferred from the RSFSR to the Uzbek SSR. The creation of Kazakhstan as a modern nation state starts in 1920 with the creation of the Kirgizstan ASSR in its territory. At that time the Soviet government like the earlier Tsarist regime still wrongly referred to the Kazakhs as Kirgiz and the Kyrgyz as Kara-Kirgiz. This first republic did not encompass much of the southern and eastern territory of modern day Kazakhstan including the area around Almaty. These territories only became part of Kazakhstan with the formation of the Kazakh ASSR in 1924. These national territories, the Kirgizstan ASSR, Kazakh ASSR, and most of all the Kazakh SSR had many of the trappings of the modern nation state, although they lacked the key attribute of political independence. The Kazakh SSR had national borders, national symbols, a national history, and a national cadre of leaders. By 1991 the only thing it lacked to make it a functioning state was political independence. The state structures inherited by the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1991 were all entirely constructed during the Soviet era and drew almost no influence at all from earlier forms of Kazakh statehood. The creation of the current Kazakh state and indeed the transformation of the Kazakh people into a modern nation along European lines only occurred in the 20th century. So while one can clearly point to earlier Kazakh state formations perhaps as early as the 16th century, these forms of statehood were very different from the modern nation state that is the model for present day Kazakhstan. They were not models or influences for the later development of Kazakh statehood under Soviet rule. Kazakh statehood as it stands today is a project that the Soviet government embarked on starting in 1920 and as such is relatively new.